Law Not Enough to Protect Dignity, Says Holy See

Culture, Mentalities and Society Also Must Participate

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NEW YORK, OCT. 21, 2008 ( Though law is not sufficient to protect human dignity, it is an indispensable instrument in furthering this cause, says the Holy See.

This was the observation made by Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, at the 63rd U.N. General Assembly on Oct. 14.

The prelate initially noted that «the rule of law has grown in importance as a vital pillar for greater international development. At its core, the rule of law is the mechanism by which international organizations and national governments are called to provide effective recognition of the dignity of all persons regardless of their social, economic or political status.»

However, Archbishop Migliore affirmed, since law is «often perceived as respect for formal procedures and not in more substantive terms,» it could become «insufficient by itself to defend the dignity of the human person.»

«The rights of persons,» he explained, «are not simply a set of legal norms but represent, above all, fundamental values. Such values must be fostered by society, otherwise they risk disappearing even from legislative texts. The dignity of persons must be safeguarded in culture, in the public mentality and in the conduct of society, as a precondition and in order to be protected by law.

«Although the rule of law is not in itself sufficient, it remains nevertheless an indispensable instrument for the protection of human dignity.»

Reference point

Archbishop Migliore said that the rule of law is a demand implied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which marks its 60th anniversary this year.

The declaration «is a reference point that calls all nations to organize the relationship of persons and society with the state based on the fundamental human rights,» he said.

The Holy See representative also suggested that the concept of the rule of law shouldn’t be applied just to politics or legal matters in post-conflict settings.

«The current economic crisis,» he said, «shows that a strong rule of law could be very helpful in the promotion of fair and stable economic development. The interconnected nature of the global market has increased the need for debate on and implementation of the rule of law, so as to establish a more just global economic system. In the developing world, the rule of law can provide social and economic growth while in the developed world, through just regulations, it can ensure greater economic stability and fairness.»

Archbishop Migliore added: «One area in which the United Nations serves as a forum for enhancing the rule of law is in the making of international treaties and conventions. […] Hence, it is of great importance that when implementing and enforcing these norms, the United Nations’ agencies and monitoring bodies respect the intent and desire of states. A treaty body system which moves away from the original intent of the parties and expands its mandates beyond the power given by states, risks undermining its own credibility and legitimacy and can discourage states from joining conventions.»

«The United Nations will be appreciated in its own right,» he concluded, «whenever the rule of law is translated from discussions of norms and values into tangible results for those who seek justice.»

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